Swansea

5 December, 1998

St Helens

Cardiff
referee
Fred Howard
scorers
Dan Baugh (1)
Craig Morgan (1)
Paul Burke (1)
Paul Burke (1)

So Saturday was a watershed for Welsh rugby. Now it's obvious that it is not the clubs who run the game, not the WRU who run the game, not the players who run the game, it's the referees!

From enduring a shambles whose result was dictated by Fred Howard, we endured another shambolic game whose result was dictated by Derek Bevan (sponsored by the WRU - Oh! Llanelli won again, what a surprise!). When will these referees learn that we don't pay our cash to watch them perform - it's the players we're interested in?

Howard's performance was of a vintage similar to that of Derek Bevan - old has-beens making decisions from 15 yards away from the play. We'll now be checking before each game to see if Fred Howard is playing and if so we'll be thinking twice about going.

It would be an easy excuse to point to the game being lost when it was 15 v 13 (or should that be 16 v 13?). It's true that Swansea didn't score most of their points within this period, but Cardiff still had enough chances to win this game. Swansea seemed to play with a set game plan yet Cardiff had no clear plan, and were incapable of reading the game. The Swansea plan seemed to involve lots of crash ball or charges close to the ruck and maul area, whilst concentrating on scrummaging Cardiff off the ball.

So what exactly was Cardiff's game plan, Terence?

Rather than blame the referee for dictating the result by sinbinning Dan Baugh and Kacala, let's look at the weaknesses (and strengths) in the Cardiff game which led to a failure to win. The game was lost at the relegation specialist half backs that we've inherited. Robert Jones was slow, predictable and tactically naive. He has yet to have a good game for Cardiff and a man of his experience totally lacks any leadership skills. He's at Cardiff for the money and that's it. Give us Steve Wake any day, because for all his limitations, he plays his guts out for the team. Paul Burke was purely a defensive choice - someone to tackle Gibbs, and failed to create any chances for his backs. It was painfully clear that Weatherly was way off the pace and that Craig Morgan and Simon Hill had the beating of their opposite numbers,so where was the Robert Jones trade mark - the high box kick? Where was the long raking cross field kicks to move Weatherly around. The last 20 minutes cried out for Jarvis to play and belt the ball up the field.

So this leads us to the real weakness in the Cardiff club. Once more, Mr Holmes has failed to make the tactical substitutions he should have. First of all, he selected an overly defensive back line. Swansea are strong up front and in the centre. So he picked a mobile pack with weak tight skills. The scrum was decimated - Andy Lewis outplayed, and the second row retreating at a rate of knots. When Charvis was sinbinned in the second half, the seven man Swansea pack pushed Cardiff off the ball. So forwards lacked the tight skills to combat Swansea's drive and backs lacked the fluidity to attack out wide. Were you just trying to keep the score down, Terence? Swansea's weaknesses on the flanks and at half back were not exposed. On the two or three occasions that innocuous kicks from Cardiff tested Weatherly, Craig Morgan sped past him like Humph overtaking De Glanville.

Picking Andy Lewis as captain is another unfathomable decision from Mr Holmes. Great player that he was, he is no coach. Why have a player like Humph in your team - a natural leader - and not use him? Quiet, unassuming characters like Andy Lewis do not make for inspirational leaders. Cardiff need someone like Humph or Kacala who lead from the front.

The dropping of Wintle was crazy and showed that Cardiff went into the game in a negative frame of mind. Cardiff cannot be afraid of Gibbs. If he scores three tries, then four must be scored in return. Wintle will create space, his left footed kicks are intelligent and he seems one of the few backs at the club capable of reading the game.

If Cardiff is to succeed in the supposed British League next season then a coach with foresight is needed. When the initial game plan is faltering, Holmes is incapable of using impact players. The team play the same way, week in week out, and defences will soon learn how to snuff out attacks, just as teams in Wales have learnt. John Plumtree has just signed a three year extension to his contract at Swansea - why don't Cardiff follow their lead? Graham Henry has shown the difference that a good coach can make.

15
Justin Thomas
7
/10
did little wrong
14
Craig Morgan
7
/10
did little
13
Leigh Davies
6
/10
fairly anonymous
12
Gareth Thomas
5
/10
looked totally uncomfortable in the centre - other than head down and charge tactics.
11
Simon Hill
6
/10
a very quiet game, not looking for work as normal
10
Paul Burke
5
/10
did not vary the game and seemed constantly in fear of Gibbs
9
Robert Jones
3
/10
if this form is repeated we must look for a new understudy for Howley
8
Greg Kacala
7
/10
as above, minus the try
7
Dan Baugh
7
/10
great try, unfairly sinbinned, worked hard throughout, but missed a simple tackle which let in Swansea in the second half
6
Owain Williams
2
/10
out of his depth in a tight game - failed to guard the blind side on too many occasions
5
Steve Williams
5
/10
must learn to scrummage (come on Charlie!!!) or play him on the blind side where he belongs
4
John Tait
4
/10
prominent in defence but showed little in scrums or lineout
3
Spencer John
3
/10
some runs in the loose, but decimated in the scrum
2
Jon Humphreys
6
/10
looked as though he has not played with his Cardiff colleagues for some time
1
Andrew Lewis
6
/10
why captain? outplayed by rivals for his Welsh spot